By Kyaw Ye Lynn
Security forces carried out a systematic campaign of rape and sexual violence against Rohingya Muslims during a recent crackdown, an international human rights group said Monday.
Witnesses said soldiers and police officers targeted Rohingya women and girls as young as 13 in a security operation launched in the northern part of Rakhine state in October last year.
“The sexual violence did not appear to be random or opportunistic but part of a coordinated and systematic attack against Rohingya, in part because of their ethnicity and religion,” U.S-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report.
The report -- based on interviews with 18 women and 10 men who fled to neighboring Bangladesh from Maungdaw district -- documented 28 incidents of rape and other sexual assaults between December and January.
Survivors and witnesses identified army and border police units by their uniforms and described security forces committing attacks in groups, some holding the victims down or threatening them with guns.
“These horrific attacks on Rohingya women and girls by security forces add a new and brutal chapter to the Burmese military’s long and sickening history of sexual violence against women,” HRW researcher Priyanka Motaparthy said in the report.
“Military and police commanders should be held responsible for these crimes if they did not do everything in their power to stop them or punish those involved.”
The government has previously denied such allegations but on Monday pledged to investigate the claims. Zaw Htay, a spokesman for the president, told Anadolu Agency that a government-appointed commission was looking into the new allegations.
“The commission led by Vice President Myint Swe is probing into the alleged abuse cases in this report as well as in recent UN report,” Htay said, referring to a report commissioned by UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
“As we always said, action will be taken [against] anyone found [to have] committed the alleged abuses.”
The government has said at least 106 people have been killed in the subsequent security operation. However, Rohingya advocacy groups claim around 400 Rohingya -- described by the UN as among the most persecuted groups worldwide -- were killed, women raped and Rohingya villages torched.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.